Poet Dana Gioia to give Commencement address

Rt. Rev. William Swing chosen to give Baccalaureate address

Vance Jacobs Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia, renowned poet, literary critic and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be the 2007 Commencement speaker at Stanford University, President John Hennessy announced Tuesday. Gioia holds both a bachelor's degree and MBA from Stanford.

Hennessy also announced that the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, former Episcopal Bishop of California, will be this year's Baccalaureate speaker.

Gioia was born of Italian and Mexican descent in Los Angeles in 1950 and was the first member of his family to attend college, according to the biography on his website. A successful businessman for many years, Gioia wrote mostly at night and on the weekends before becoming a full-time writer in 1992.

Gioia's literary works have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate and The Hudson Review. He has published three full-length books of poetry: Daily Horoscope (1986), The Gods of Winter (1991) and Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award. Appointed by President George W. Bush, he became chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003.

"Dana Gioia's life story is one of an unyielding thirst for knowledge and relentless dedication to the art of the written word," Hennessy said. "His experiences are a testament to the fact that education is a lifelong journey and that taking on new challenges, while risky, can open doors to a remarkably rich existence. I believe such life lessons are of tremendous value for those about to embark on a new phase of life, and I am eager to hear his words of wisdom for our graduating students."

Gioia has taught as a visiting writer at Colorado College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Johns Hopkins, Mercer and Wesleyan universities. In addition to his Stanford degrees, he holds a master's degree in comparative literature from Harvard University.

Senior Class Presidents Vivek Shivprasad Agrawal, Faris Ali Mohiuddin, Kathryn Rickertsen and Lisa Vermillion said Gioia's diverse background would bring an extremely valuable perspective to the Commencement ceremony.

"We believe Dana Gioia's compelling personal story, his contributions in the world of literary criticism and poetry, and his experience as a teacher provide a tremendous opportunity to inspire soon-to-be Stanford graduates," the class presidents said in a joint statement.

Swing was the Episcopal Bishop of California from 1980 to 2006 and currently serves as the president of the United Religions Initiative, which describes its purpose as serving to "promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing." Swing has chaired numerous national, state and local panels on a wide range of issues, including efforts supporting the homeless, people with AIDS and the developmentally disabled.

Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, senior associate dean for religious life, said she was delighted that Swing would speak at the Baccalaureate and that his message was sure to resonate with Stanford's diverse, multifaith community.

"The Rt. Rev. Swing has dedicated his life to engaging people of indigenous traditions and all of the world's religions in peacemaking, conflict resolution and understanding," Karlin-Neumann said. "At a time of increased religious violence, the Rt. Rev. Swing's clear-eyed devotion to global religious understanding is a model for Stanford students as they graduate and prepare to contribute to bettering the world."

Swing holds a bachelor's degree and a DD from Kenyon College, an MDiv and DD from Virginia Theological Seminary and an honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco.

Stanford's 116th Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies are part of a two-day celebration for graduates, their families and friends, and members of the Stanford community. The Baccalaureate ceremony will be held on the Main Quad Saturday, June 16; Commencement will be held in the newly renovated Stanford Stadium on Sunday, June 17. Both events begin at 9:30 a.m.